Blowing Your Top!

by Eric Kreye

Some years ago a news story reported a man who went crazy on the job, killed four of his coworkers and then critically wounded another. Why this violence? Someone else got the promotion he wanted and he was angry!

Bitterness and anger turned this once peaceful man into a hateful killer. Four lives lost, another crippled for life, and the one who pulled the trigger locked up for life--all because of uncontrolled anger.

As a result of anger, some have kicked their automobiles, causing varying degrees of damage, and some hit walls with their fist, leaving big, gaping holes. One individual struck out at a concrete wall with his fist and ended up with a broken hand, lots of pain, and missed work days. All because of anger.

Even worse than all of that, we as humans can cause even deeper hurts than holes, greater damage than dented fenders or splintered doors--our words can cause damage to other human beings (sometimes innocent children) who will suffer the rest of their lives.

A lady once walked up to well-known preacher, Billy Sunday, after one of his famous meetings and said to him, "Is anything wrong when I lose my temper? I blow up quickly, but then it's all over."

Billy Sunday quickly replied, "Lady, so does the shotgun, and look at the damage it inflicts!"

Anger has been described as an uncontrolled fire--eventually it burns itself out, but it leaves a terrible path of destruction.

In our society today it is often said that it isn't so bad to feel angry, it's how one expresses it that's important.

Can we totally agree with that? What does the Bible say?

"Let all bitterness,
wrath, anger, clamor,
and evil speaking be put
away from you,..."
--Ephesians 4:31

Is the author saying we should put away only wrong expressions of anger? No. He said to put all anger away--period!

Obviously anger is something that must be put out of our lives. Jesus Himself once said that anger is in some ways a violation of the command not to kill. (See Matthew 5:21, 22.)

There are many reasons why God instructs us not to be angry. For one, it can be bad for one's health. Studies show that when a person is angry:

1. The body chemistry can be thrown off balance. Adrenalin, the fight or flight hormone, floods the body.

2. The digestive process grinds to a halt.

3. Breathing is more rapid and the heart beats faster.

4. Blood pressure increases, sometimes dangerously.

5. Blood sugar level can rise.

6. Eyes become dilated.

7. Muscles tense up and blood clots easier. As a result, a stroke can occur.

One study involved a group of 118 students in law school. They were graded on their hostility. Twenty-five years later 20 percent of those who scored highest as angry persons were dead, compared with only 5 percent of those who registered lowest in hostility.

Someone once made the observation: "Anger is just one letter short of danger."

You may have heard the story of physiologist John Hunter. He once made the statement, "The first scoundrel that really gets me angry will kill me."

Later while attending a medical meeting this man became so angry over some remark that was made, and his reaction was so intense, he died right there of a heart attack, just as he predicted might happen.

But, you might say, Jesus was angry, and doesn't the Bible in Ephesians 4:26 say, "Be angry, and do not sin"?

Yes, Jesus was angry when He chased money-changers from the temple, tipped over their tables, and let the animals run free. But notice why He was angry. As He was moving through the temple, He said, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves'" (Matthew 21:13). He was angry when He saw His heavenly Father being dishonored by all that was going on in the name of religion.

Can you think of situations when it is okay to be angry?

How do you feel when you hear of innocent children being abused? Or when the elderly are ripped off by some scam? Isn't God dishonored when human beings treat others in this way?

Anger is a powerful emotion, and we all have felt it at one time or another. But if anger is not God-approved, it has to be controlled or it will control us.

How, you say?

Here are a few suggestions that may help:

Admit your emotions and be honest about the source of your anger. If we don't acknowledge it, it can build up and eventually explode and cause even more damage.

Wally thought of himself as a kind, easy-going guy, who could put up with almost anything. His wife had the habit of venting her feelings of insecurity by blaming and criticizing and belittling him. He thought he was doing the right thing by sitting there passively, absorbing it. He always said he was sorry and would try harder to be a better husband.

Wally always stuffed his feelings. In fact, he was rather proud of his calm reactions. But one day he suddenly realized that all those feelings of love for his wife were gone. In their place was an incredible rage. All he could think of was getting out of the relationship.

Do you find yourself suppressing your emotions that are simmering just below the surface? Maybe you keep telling yourself, I'm not an angry person, I'm not mad.

We've got to be honest with ourselves and with God. Which brings up another point.

Ask God to forgive you and help you. And then do what He impresses you to do.

It might mean that you will have to talk to the person who is the object of your anger. Ephesians 4:26 says, "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath...."

Just remember that even though confrontation to resolve a difference may be necessary, using restraint and allowing time to cool things off a bit is always wise.

One young man had been insulted by an acquaintance and was very indignant. "I'm going at once to demand an apology," he said.

But a wise, old man cautioned, "An insult is like mud; it will brush off much better when it dries. Wait till you and he are both cool, and the thing will be easily solved. If you go now, it will only be to quarrel."

The young man heeded that counsel, and the next day the person who had insulted him came to ask for his forgiveness.

Not all problems have such a happy ending. But the possibilities are greatly increased when we are "slow to anger" (Proverbs 15:18).

Ask God to help you forgive the person who made you angry.

It is easy to say, "The person who hurt me doesn't deserve to be forgiven." But remember, Jesus forgives our blunders and our sins. And anger is a sin! Do we deserve to be forgiven?

When the Lord taught His disciples (and us!) how to pray, He included:

"Forgive us our sins,
just as we have forgiven those who
have sinned against us."
--Matthew 7:12

That means He wants us to forgive others just as He forgives us! And what He asks us to do, we must believe He will provide the power to do it.

Direct the adrenalin-produced energy that has built up inside of you into something productive and positive, like going for a walk, riding a bike, pulling weeds in the garden, or cleaning out the garage. Some women make their best bread when they are upset. It's surprising how much kneading one can do with that extra energy!

Check your lifestyle. It's easy to react negatively when you are not well. It could be loss of sleep, overwork, poor eating habits (maybe too much sugar).

Ask the Holy Spirit to take full control of your life, including the powerful emotion of anger. Scripture encourages:

"With men this is impossible,
but with God all things are possible"
--Matthew 19:26

God can and will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. When you feel like exploding, or you are about to "blow up," turn it over to Jesus. He is well able to calm the storm.

How can we do that? We can learn more from an inner-city kid named Ben.

Ben grew up in a Detroit ghetto, a place where anger often flows freely in the streets. Unfortunately, for many it's a way of life. By the time Ben reached high school, he had developed quite a temper.

One afternoon Ben was listening to the radio when his buddy yelled, "You call that music?" and flipped the dial to another station. Ben shot back, "It's better than what you like, kid!" And as the two struggled over the radio dial, Ben in an instant of blind anger grabbed the camping knife he carried in his back pocket. He snapped it open and lunged at his friend's belly with all his strength. Fortunately, the kid was wearing a heavy belt buckle. The knife blade hit the buckle with such force that the blade broke and dropped to the floor.

Ben stared down at the broken blade in horror. He had almost killed someone! And over what?

This incident forced Ben to face his anger and realize that he had to do something about it. He knew he couldn't handle his temper alone. So he prayed, "Lord, You have to take this temper from me. If You don't, I'll never be free from it. Lord, only You can change me inside, only You can take away my rage."

Ben went home and shut himself in a room, took out his Bible and began to read in the book of Proverbs. One verse seemed to be written just for him:

"He who is slow to anger
is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than
he who takes a city."
--Proverbs 16:32

Ben made a commitment that day to give himself and his problems fully to God. A sense of peace replaced Ben's anguish and panic. In fact, as he walked out of that room, he felt God had changed him. He told himself, "My temper will never have control of me again. I'm free!"

God did help Ben with his temper, his uncontrolled anger. In fact, the hands that had once lunged with a knife to kill became the skilled hands of a surgeon that now bring life to many. Today Dr. Ben Carson is one of America's most respected pediatric neurosurgeons.

Friend, what God did for Ben, He can do for you. Just ask Him!

When angry, count ten before you speak;
when very angry, count a hundred.
--Thomas Jefferson

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